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Old 12-22-2002, 08:46 AM   #26
Bruce Baker
Dojo: LBI Aikikai/LBI ,NJ
Location: Barnegaat, NJ
Join Date: Sep 2001
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Accolades and trophys

The fact is .... most people who train four or more days a week, or insist on being tested often to rise in kyu or dan ranks are caught up in the trophy and accolades from training without integrating into their daily life.

That is to say, they see it as a finite journey that is given to them to accomplish, like most of our goals for school, or training, it is considered outside of ones normal lifestyle or complete when it becomes boring because there is no more time outside of ones personal life, or the body is slightly older without the vigor of youth.

I guess some people consider it a marriage that has not gone as they expected so they divorce themselves from that life when they change or the love affair dies down.

A real teacher, one who is never satisfied, and will grow despite formal or informal training, will find a way to practice despite infirmities, or be drawn back into their practice because of a love for it, finding a way to integrate it into their lives.

The practice should be as important as a child, given the time it needs, while you have your life that is integrated into the practice because you love it, not for trophys or accolades.

My opinion on this whole testing system is that it is not the proper way to give out rank. It is a money maker, as western way of thinking or, at least, the caste system.

Maybe I am still too trusting, or in considering the application of practice in the real world, we train to protect ourselves and others never seeking selfish gains or means in our pursuit of knowledge.

True practice is the acquisition of knowledge so that your knowledge is able to expand with or without your teachers aid. If you depend on everything you know, or are taught to be handed to you from your teacher, well ... you deserve to be disillusioned and dissappear from Aikido when you become bored.

I am terribly dissillusioned when teachers are caught up in train, train, train and they don't consider what they are doing is not just Aikido but the synthesis of many arts that have been adapted into Aikido, just as other arts are the shadow of Aikido also.

Train to enjoy the practice, and you will always find a place for practice ... even when you are felled by the distracting type of illnes that makes me dizzy, and ill during practice so I have to sit out for a couple of ten minute periods, you find a way to do the practice anyway because you love it.

There are, of course, the career changing moves that makes one move to other locations, but then I see those people doing some type of practice, and they do return to visit .

Oh well. C'est la vie!
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Old 12-22-2002, 08:49 AM   #27
Edward
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Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury (Peter Goldsbury) wrote:
Yes, but don't you think this is also an instructor's problem? I received my shodan after 9 years of training, with 3 different teachers, all Japanese. On receiving the rank, I was made to feel that shodan was the beginning of a lifetime commitment and I owe this realization / awareness to my teachers. But I was never made to feel a fraud, i.e., that my 9 years of kyu-grade training did not matter, or that I had reached a rank that I did not deserve. I tested and passed the test in the eyes of these teachers.
I have a question here to Dr. Goldsbury. I am very surprised that it took you 9 years to reach Shodan. Have you ever felt that this is unfair, considering that university graduates in Japan are given (or gifted) nidan as a graduation present? I have always wondered why these very Japanese teachers, who themselves received their shodans in a year or less of training, impose a 5 or 7 years of regular training on their students to reach the same grade.

I have always wondered about aikido in Japan every time I met a shodan or nidan Japanese visitor whose technical level would not be enough to get 3rd kyu at our dojo.

Imho, strict requirements and long training years for shodan are essential in creating this life-long commitment to aikido, because the black belt alone cannot justify 5-7 years of training, and would thus discourage those who are seeking only the belt.

Still I find it strange to see the extremely low requirements for shodan and nidan in Japan.

Best regards,

Edward
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Old 12-22-2002, 01:54 PM   #28
rachmass
Dojo: Aikido of Cincinnati/Huron Valley Aikikai
Location: Somerset Michigan
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Hi Edward,

Interesting comments to Dr. Goldsbury; I hope he writes back soon, as I enjoy hearing his thoughts on these topics.

I was wondering from your post though, about how the gradings in aikido differ from the gradings in other martial arts; e.g., in TKD, it is not at all uncommon to reach shodan in a couple of years, and only in aikido have I heard it taking upwards of 7 years or more. Don't get me wrong, I think it is a good idea to wait to test, and to mature and "season" in your aikido before testing for shodan, I am just curious as to how other MA treat the dan gradings.

best,

Rachel

(oh, thanks for the url regarding a book on the business of MA, appreciate it!)
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Old 12-22-2002, 06:52 PM   #29
Peter Goldsbury
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Hello Edward,

Here is a response to your post. There is quite a lot there, i.e, you cover a number of topics in one post, so I have broken it up somewhat.

Edward Karaa (Edward) wrote:

"I have a question here to Dr. Goldsbury. I am very surprised that it took you 9 years to reach Shodan."

PAG. Well, there are a number of reasons: I studied under three different teachers, all with exacting standards, and in I was not particularly interested in grading. There was never any question, for me at least, that aikido was effective (as I discovered from the occasional street fight in London), but I never stayed long enough with the first two teachers to go far through the kyu system. Back in London, I trained very much (London University had a 10 year limit for submitting doctoral theses, so my Ph.D. went on the back burner) and obtained shodan. Even then, I spent three years at 1st kyu. As I stated elsewhere, after obtaining shodan I became one of the assistant instructors in the main dojo and perhaps this is why the shihan made me wait so long. He wanted to be sure that I would teach properly and also teach what he wanted.

Edward Karaa (Edward) wrote:

"Have you ever felt that this is unfair, considering that university graduates in Japan are given (or gifted) nidan as a graduation present?"

PAG. No I have never felt it unfair. When I arrived in Japan and went on the mat at Hiroshima University, virtually none of the students could deal with me. They were astonished that I was only a shodan and this made them wonder about their own training, but the majority rationalized the fact of the gap in the usual 'Japan vs. gaikoku' way, which, of course, they had been taught to do. The more thoughtful saw that nidans and sandans were regularly demolished at my hands, but this actually upset the more conservative students. You sometimes hear dark comments about 'hinkaku' (usually translated as 'dignity') in the sumo world when foreign rekishi beat higher-ranked Japanese opponents, so I understand their prejudice. There are still people around who believe that Japanese are congenitally superior at the martial arts.

Edward Karaa (Edward) wrote:

"I have always wondered why these very Japanese teachers, who themselves received their shodans in a year or less of training, impose a 5 or 7 years of regular training on their students to reach the same grade."

PAG. Well, I think you need to make a large distinction between the Aikikai Hombu, university clubs, and other dojos in Japan. An independent university federation has existed for many years and this was quite important to the spread of the Aikikai in Japan after the war. The universities were seen as an important source of students and support in other ways (by OB students after graduation). I saw these links very clearly at Hiroshima University 30th anniversary celebrations. Doshu came and the university's Taikukai and Aikido OB Kai turned out and there was a demonstration, parties etc. The demonstrations were pretty awful, but a more pleasant memory was that a group (club captain, instructors, OB's, guests like myself) later retired to a bar with Doshu and his assistants and sang karaoke songs.

Of course, the federation is controlled by the Aikikai, but the custom of allowing students to take 2nd dan on graduation has come to be accepted and will not change: there is no reason to change it. Why? Because it is a 'tatemae': everyone knows that university students can execute graceful flowing ukemi, and not much else. Those who continue aikido go to the city dojos and their aikido improves as they resume a 'normal' aikido life. Thus, in my own dojo I, also, will require 5 or 6 years of training before I give shodan and the members of the dojo know this. So, "these very Japanese teachers" have joined the mainstream,

Edward Karaa (Edward) wrote:

"I have always wondered about aikido in Japan every time I met a shodan or nidan Japanese visitor whose technical level would not be enough to get 3rd kyu at our dojo."

PAG. Well Mr Fukakusa might well have been one of these students initially, but, like my own teacher, he would have gone through some more intensive training at the hands of deshi from the Aikikai. In the above paragraph, I compared university clubs to the mainstream. Of course, standards in 'mainstream' clubs vary, but I have two comments. One is that in my experience 5th dan and 6th dan standards here are pretty similar to those overseas. The other is that the Aikikai are beginning to sit up and take notice about the perceived gap in standards between Japan and the rest of the world. We have the Internet largely to thank for this, but events like Aiki Expo have also helped.

Edward Karaa (Edward) wrote:

"Imho, strict requirements and long training years for shodan are essential in creating this life-long commitment to aikido, because the black belt alone cannot justify 5-7 years of training, and would thus discourage those who are seeking only the belt."

PAG. Well, Edward, I certainly agree that strict requirements are essential, but they are a necessary condition, not a sufficient condition. From my position here, I am constantly seeing students who are yudansha (right up to 3rd and 4th dan) break away from their instructors. Sometimes these departures are amicable, but this is rare. More usually they are acrimonious. As I intimated in an earlier post, students who have reached shodan in my opinion need more careful handling than the kyu grades and the departure of a yudansha should provoke much questioning, indeed soul-searching, on the part of his/her instructor. I personally believe that here relatively few yudansha leave because they think aikido is not effective: I think they leave for more personal reasons.

Edward Karaa (Edward) wrote:

"Still I find it strange to see the extremely low requirements for shodan and nidan in Japan."

PAG. Well, as I stated, there is a context to this. Whether the context by itself should justify the practice, is, of course, another question.

I see this post has become rather long. Apologies.

Best regards,

Edward

PAG. And to you. Best Wishes for 2003.

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 12-22-2002 at 06:54 PM.

P A Goldsbury
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Old 12-22-2002, 11:19 PM   #30
Williamross77
 
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Quote:
There's even one guy on this forum who already considers himself to be a great teacher possessing extra-ordinary talent despite the fact that he isn't even shodan yet.
I tried to priv-message mike lee to inquire who the kyu-rank was that concidered himself a great tallent and teacher, but you are not accepting PMes. Well I only know of myself as being kyu ranked, and i surely don't belive myself to be any great tallent or teacher in any real degree. I was under the asssumption that this forum was open to all who love the art of Aikido and their oppinions, if i am wrong, I do appologize for being left with the responsability of conducting classes, when i would much rather just attend. But if i did not there would be no practice at all where I live. Sorry if you were not refering to me, but would like to know.

in Aiki
Agatsu!!
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Old 12-23-2002, 04:14 AM   #31
mike lee
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literacy

Please take no offense Mr. Ross I was referring to the AikiWeb Forum, not this thread in particular. But you may want to ocassionally check your spelling.
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Old 12-23-2002, 05:59 AM   #32
Chris Li
 
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Quote:
Edward Karaa (Edward) wrote:
I have always wondered about aikido in Japan every time I met a shodan or nidan Japanese visitor whose technical level would not be enough to get 3rd kyu at our dojo.
It's more or less the same in Japan as it is anywhere else - someone training for a certain length of time here is the same as someone with a comparable amount of time anywhere else (not considering other factors for the moment). The rank is just a label that you hang on folks - even overseas there are no real standards, even within a single organization.
Quote:
Edward Karaa (Edward) wrote:
Imho, strict requirements and long training years for shodan are essential in creating this life-long commitment to aikido, because the black belt alone cannot justify 5-7 years of training, and would thus discourage those who are seeking only the belt.
I see it the other way - by making the standards strict you increase the value of the thing in question. This is a basic economic supply and demand principle. By making ranks easily available you devalue them and make training as a quest for rank less attractive.
Quote:
Edward Karaa (Edward) wrote:
Still I find it strange to see the extremely low requirements for shodan and nidan in Japan.
At least in Tokyo, part of the equation is that there are so many yudansha around. When you walk on the mat where I train there are a bunch of people who have been training for thirty or forty years. Twenty years of training doesn't even qualify you as one of the senior students. Whether it takes someone two years or five to get to shodan seems less of an important issue then it does in places where shodan makes you the senior guy around.

Best,

Chris

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Old 12-23-2002, 08:42 AM   #33
Edward
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Dr. Goldsbury,

Many thanks for your very interesting message.

Chris,

I have no idea how it is in Japan, but I am only talking about my experience with Japanese travellers whom I meet from time to time. They seem to be less experienced than our members of same rank. But as you say, it is a matter of length of training time, not rank. They just get their rank quicker, that's all.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to all Forum members.

Cheers,

Edward
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Old 12-23-2002, 11:53 AM   #34
Williamross77
 
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to: Mike L. Funny as it is, i know I can't spell, years as an English major, relied on spell checker while typing, you journalists have that area cornered, as i look at words as organisims that will evolve.

please forgive the past and future blunders.

in Aiki
Agatsu!!
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